Jojo Moyes is fast becoming one of my favourite authors - I loved Me Before You and The Last Letter, and was really excited to read this new novel.
The Girl You Left Behind opens grippingly with the story of Sophie Lefevre and her family. It is 1916, and her French village has been occupied by the Germans - life is tough. Sophie's husband Edouard, an artist, is away at war and she and her sister Helene are struggling to make ends meet, running Le Coq Rouge, the village inn. Then a German Kommandant insists that they begin cooking for his men, much to Sophie's disgust. Chillingly, the Kommandant seems to take a liking to Sophie, and appears bewitched by the portrait Edouard painted of her, entitled The Girl You Left Behind. Can Sophie use his liking of her to get information about her husband... or is that a dangerous game too far?
The action turns to the present day and we meet Liv Halston, a young widow, who is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life following the death of her beloved husband, David. The Girl You Left Behind now hangs on her wall, a gift from David, yet she has no idea of the story behind the painting... until the Lefevre family start trying to trace the missing artwork, claiming that it was looted illegally by the German army during the war, and should rightfully be returned to them. Desperate not to be parted from her husband's gift, Liv digs in her heels. Moyes cleverly reveals the story of Sophie, and the two women's lives become entwined.
I absolutely loved the first half of this book - I was gripped by Sophie's storyline. She is a great character - feisty and resourceful, proud, spirited and loving - yet fallible and vulnerable too. I found the second half of the novel much slower and in all honesty, a bit long. I wished that the legal part of the story could have been cut right back, I much preferred the relationship dramas to this element. I also lost some sympathy for Liv and wasn't quite convinced by some of her actions.
Overall, I enjoyed the book - Moyes writes brilliantly as ever - but for me, it didn't pack quite the same emotional punch as this author's previous novels.
I feel bad about writing anything remotely negative about this book. I first read JoJo Moyes a few months ago when I read "Me before you" - a book that made me love, laugh, sob and grieve. I don't think I had ever read a book quite like it and I could not wait for the new novel.
I was lucky enough to get a pre-release and it arrived yesterday.......I read the whole book (400+ pages) in one day, finishing late last night.
I really liked the story of Sophie and occupied France, I could picture Le Coq Rouge and life in the first world war and I was so engrossed in her story I could not put the book down.
Then in the second part came Liv and the prolonged and somewhat dull court battle around the painting Liv was left by her deceased husband. The second part of the book bored me and I found myself almost speed reading through the pages to get back to Sophie.
I am sure the book will be enjoyed by many, the story is clever and is very well written, but my gripe is that I just wasn't moved in the same way 'Me before you' moved me.....I found parts of this story boring, drawn out and not required. I would have quite happily read 500 pages exclusively about Sophie and given it 5 stars.
I am sorry JoJo, but it just didn't thrill me like your last book.
This is the third JoJo Moyes book I have read. I wasn't overly fussed by The Last Letter to your Lover but loved Me Before You. Having now read The Girl You Left Behind, I would say it is the best of the three I have read. I must confess, I have even put my son down for his sleeps earlier than normal just to read this book.
The book follws two females, Sophie Lefevre in 1914 occupied France, and Liv Halston in 2006 London. Sophie's husband has been drafted to fight in the war and Liv is a young widow. Both women are linked by a portrait of Sophie that has a dramatic impact on both their lives.
I really want to say what the novel is about but I really don't want to give anything away as this book is such a treat. I am not normally a fan of wartime stories but the Sophie segments are written on a personal level giving the reader an insight into the fear and feelings people of that time must have felt. I felt it was so well written and so compelling that I just did not want to stop reading. Another reviewer has said that they didn't find the situation between Sophie and the Kommandent convincing; I am in two minds over this, on one hand, I will admit to being disappointed in the Kommandent as I felt that maybe he just wanted to be accepted as a person rather than a uniform and therefore just wanted a closeness to someone, but on the other hand, I can see that desperation and fear could drive a person, ie Sophie to do anything to be reunited with her husband.
This is a great read whether you are a fan of JoJo Moyes or not and I can't think of anyone who it won't appeal to. I am already recommending it to all my friends for it's release later this year.
on 4 October 2016
This book is my first introduction into Jojo Moyles and wow!! What a fantastic author. The story has great characters set in a tale that could actually happen. It is very emotional at times, so hankies at the ready! Great holiday read or a wiinter read curled up near an open fire! Will be recommending this to my book club at the end of the month! Enjoy!!
on 29 September 2012
This is the first novel that I have read by author Jojo Moyes. I am sorry to say that overall I was very disappointed. The premise - "two women separated by a century, united in their determination to fight for what they love most, whatever the cost" - intrigued me and on beginning the book I was immediately drawn into the life and story of Sophie Lefevre. She is a strong character, easy to relate to and easy to care about. Forced into an impossible situation in war-torn France she remains a likeable protagonist despite the actions she chooses to take. For the first hundred pages, I loved this book.
However, the story then leaps into present day London and the life of Liv Halston. Despite having also suffered heartbreaking loss Liv is an empty character, hard to empathise with. Ultimately, I just didn't care enough about her. For the next four hundred pages, the novel jumps back and forth between Sophie in 1916 and Liv in 2006.
The link between the two women - a painting - is not strong enough to integrate the lives of Sophie and Liv. The style of the writing changes so dramatically between the two stories that it is like trying to read two different books simultaneously. Perhaps writing two books instead of one would have been a better plan for Moyes - Sophie's story is strong enough to stand alone and had the writer chosen not to include Liv's story I would have loved this book with a full five stars. That's a shame.
on 17 November 2016
Jojo Moyes is fast becoming my favourite author when it comes to love stories - they just make me swoon!
Another wonderful book.
The Girl You Left Behind is the story of a painting of a young girl Sophie Lefevre, painted by her husband Edouard (a Matisse pupil) during WW1 around 1916. Her family live in a French Village which is occupied by the Germans. When a new German Kommandant arrives on the scene Sophie's life changes in an unexpected way. What happens to Sophie? and how does the painting get into the hands of present day Liv Halston who is still trying to make sense of her life following the death of her husband David. One drunken night she ends up in a gay bar and comes across a blue eyed American, Paul and her life takes an unexpected turn. Call it the hand of fate but the mystery of the painting of Sophie 'The Girl you Left Behind' is about to be revealed.
Beautiful story with lots of parallels and similarities if one looks hard enough between Sophie, Edouard and the Konnandant and in the present day Liv, David and Paul.
I loved Jojo Moyes's last novel, 'Me Before You', so I was thrilled to hear she had a new book out (and very grateful to receive an early reading copy). As with 'Me Before You', I raced through this book and didn't want it to end. In some ways, I think it's even better - if only because Moyes sets herself more difficult structural challenges with this one, and avoids the pitfalls of handling multiple narrators more gracefully. I'll say at the start that this book features two of my pet hates in popular (and indeed literary) fiction; a story from the past juxtaposed with a modern-day narrative (often because the author has no idea how to handle historical fiction) and parallels between the two stories (because these are usually obvious and not very illuminating). The fact that Moyes, seemingly effortlessly, manages to make these contrivances seem natural is a sign of the strength of her work.
Sophie Lefevre is trying to survive in an occupied area of France during the First World War, while her husband, Edouard, is away fighting at the front. One small comfort is that she still possesses the picture he painted of her before they were married, 'The Girl You Left Behind'. However, when the Kommandant of the German battalion occupying her village begins to take an interest in Sophie, her position becomes increasingly precarious. In the present day, Liv Halston is still grieving her architect husband, David, who died four years ago; her most precious memento of their relationship is not the house he built for them, but 'The Girl You Left Behind', which David bought for her on her honeymoon. However, when she is served with a court order informing her that the Lefevre family want to contest her ownership of the painting, believing that it was stolen during WW1, it seems that 'Sophie' may be taken from her. Moyes engaged my sympathy for Sophie immediately with the arresting opening scene of this novel, in which Sophie courageously confronts the Kommandant for the first time, and the depiction of her character is vital for the success of the rest of the novel. In some ways, the section set in France is the most gripping part of this book - Moyes brings the plight of the villagers to life, and gives us a sense of what it might have been like to live in 1917 without over-labouring the historical detail - but because we care about Sophie, and what happened to her, we are encouraged to read on into the modern-day section to discover the fate of her painting. Often, it seems unrealistic when characters care too deeply about the life of someone in the distant past, but Moyes brings Sophie to life so effectively that we can see why Liv, and other characters, are invested in the outcome as well.
There are clear parallels between Liv and Sophie's stories, although it's difficult to say much without giving the plot away. One obvious example is the similarities between their situations. When the Germans decide to take over Le Coq Rouge, the hotel that Sophie's family own, at the beginning of the novel, Sophie is suspected of collaboration, and some of the other villagers turn on her. Similarly, Liv's motives for contesting her ownership of her painting are misunderstood, and she is seen as condoning Nazi thefts and war crimes, despite the fact that the Nazis were not involved in her case. Moyes handles this well, not driving the parallels home too heavily but allowing them to connect the two women and enable the book to work as a coherent whole. I also thought it was a wise stylistic choice to have Sophie narrate in first-person and Liv in third-person, rather than the other way around, as this avoided Sophie becoming too distanced from the reader. Two further notes on the plot; I didn't think the situation between Sophie and the Kommandant was unrealistic at all. I thought it was a brave choice on Moyes' part to take the situation as far as she did, in fact. I was afraid throughout the novel that this was being a little whitewashed, with the Kommandant entertaining a false view of himself, but this worry was addressed by a key event near the very end of the book, which I thought was an excellent touch. Again, it's difficult to say more without spoilers!
I highly recommend this book to all Jojo Moyes fans, and it would also be a great place to start if you haven't read any of her work before. I'm now keen to check out her backlist, and have already started 'The Last Letter From Your Lover'.
on 27 September 2012
* REVIEWED IN EXCHANGE FOR FREE COPY*
Despite a strong attention-grabbing opening, this book quickly flounders. The story limps along, aiming to snare with a slow-burn forbidden romance between Sophie and the German officer in charge of occupying her town. Unfortunately the endless passages establishing what a cuddly misunderstood softy he is are so overdone (and for the most part, unnecessary) that we cease caring about them long before the payoff, whilst more interesting characters (Edouard, Liliane) are rarely featured in enough detail.
Perhaps the reason first world war novels generally focus on the horrors of front line action rather than civilians under occupation is that no matter how vividly suffering is described, it pales in comparison when viewed through the prism of the war which came after; requisitioned cutlery and rationed bread can never match the emotional impact of genocide, making it harder to feel sympathy for the characters' situation than it perhaps might otherwise be.
Sense of time and place is also sorely lacking; it is not the fault of the author that Second World War imagery is more familiar to us than First but she does little to redress the balance, and setting the novel in a small-town French cafe overrun with conquering Germans gives it a niggling `Allo Allo' flavour. (Coupled with the fact that the story features a Rene, an Edith and even a Nouvion Street, I wonder if the author did this on purpose).
If you manage to plough your way through 200+ pages of that, you then come to the present-day strand following a somehow penniless architect's widow who owns a portrait of Sophie which the German Kommandant may or may not have stolen in the previous strand. As a bereaved and fragile young woman she should be a sympathetic character but somehow isn't, instead being by turns dull and childishly helpless until the handsome but damaged alpha male lumbers in to rescue her.
Timeslip novels work best with alternating chapters, rather than rent in two like this one; it felt jarring to be taken away from the action just when it became interesting to then repeat the tiresome process of getting to know even less engaging characters in a duller setting. The story also overstretches credibility in places: are we really to believe a modern woman would never Google her date, or that a twitchy cafe owner would repeatedly forget her brother had a spyhole in the ceiling?
Overall, this book is predictable and mawkishly sentimental, with an unsubtle simplistic style; will there be a rash of mediocre First World War novels as the centenary approaches? Please say it ain't so.
on 3 April 2013
Read an excerpt of this book in the back of "me before you" which I liked a lot. It was followed by an excerpt of "honeymoon in paris" - no mention that this was in fact meant to be a prequel! I decided to buy "the girl you left behind" as I wanted to read something else by Jojo Moyes and I got straight away into the story of Sophie, while I found Liv Halston straight away irritating - what fun then to find her back in the second part of "the girl you left behind"!!! But, honestly, even without Liv I would have been disappointed by this book. It started off alright, but then it became just contrived and unbelievable. The editing is also rather poor. A couple of times paragraphs are mixed up, on page 385 the dead husband (David) is referred to as Paul, on page 388 it appears that the dead David has made statement and the use of the German is most of the time just wrong (my guess is Ms Moyes used Google translate). Why bother using the German at all if the readers aren't deemed educated enough to understand, eg let's not go through the trouble of making sure it's right - nobody will know. But, maybe worst of all, at the beginning of chapter 18 we can read that Liv and David Halsten bought the painting while on their honeymoon in Barcelona. Well, maybe I'm missing something as I have only read the first chapter of the prequel, but clearly Liv and David Halsten's honeymoon was in Paris, hence the very original title, right? Having said all this, sadly I have no desire to find out or indeed read anything else by Ms Moyes (and as I said, I liked "me before you").
on 16 December 2012
A good book with a really good concept and interesting story running through it.
I thought the first half the book was much stronger however, I couldn't put it down. Didn't have the same connection with the second half however and was a bit bored by the end.